Thailand Takes Delivery of Chinese-Built Amphib
The Royal Thai Navy has taken delivery of a Chinese-built amphib, the first in a series of vessels that it has ordered from China's busy naval shipyards.
The newly-delivered HTMS Chang is a 210-meter amphibious assault ship with a displacement of 25,000 tonnes. It has enough capacity for 600 troops, plus a crew complement of 200.
The warship was delivered without weapons systems or radar, which will be purchased and installed separately, according to Thai public broadcaster PBS. In the meantime, HTMS Chang is already well-suited for disaster relief and sealift roles.
The Royal Thai Navy ordered HTMS Chang from China State Shipbuilding Corporation's Hudong Zhonghua shipyard. The vessel is based on CSSC's Type 071 amphib design, built for China's PLA Navy. The class has room for two helicopters with enclosed hangars, and enough cargo deck space for 60 armored vehicles. It also has a well-deck with room for up to two landing craft or LCACs.
HTMS Chang will have an additional role as a submarine tender, according to the Royal Thai Navy. Thailand is engaged in talks with China over the purchase of a single diesel-electric submarine; the project has been delayed because of a unique supply chain problem. The builder agreed to deliver Thailand a sub with a high-performance German diesel engine, but this engine cannot be shipped to the Chinese shipyard because of EU military export controls.
The two sides are in talks to substitute a Chinese engine instead, an option that Thai procurement officials have resisted. The contract dispute has risen to the top of the list of diplomatic issues between China and Thailand, and Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-O-Cha has spoken about it directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Though Thailand is a treaty ally of the United States, it is also a longtime customer of Chinese arms manufacturers. A substantial share of its naval vessels were built in Chinese yards, including six of its eight frigates.